Camp O'Brien: Easing into the Zone

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Day four of camp provided little relief from the heat as scattered showers around the Triangle missed the NC State practice facility. The situation won't get any better as the Pack will move to full pads starting tomorrow.

"I hope that we compete and that we play with our pads down and that we play strong fundamentally," head coach Tom O'Brien said. "Hopefully we've learned our assignments and where we are supposed to be and where we are supposed to go in these last four days so that tomorrow we can put it together and put it with what football is all about, and that's hitting."

One of the biggest changes for the Pack will be adjusting to a more zone-oriented defensive scheme. The Pack defense is continuing to learn the zone defense in the first days of practice, and defensive coordinator Mike Archer has split the units time equally between the zone and man so far.

"We play zone, but as well play man-to-man - it's about the same so far we just got started so its been pretty equal" senior linebacker LeRue Rumph said. "[Archer] does it all – from blitzing to man-to-man to zone. Right now we are just learning everything right now."

The staff hasn't set in stone the amount of man or zone they will play once the season starts, as the team's own learning curve will determine what kind of mix the Pack ends up using once the season begins. O'Brien said that he won't know how much of either the team will play until much later in the fall practice schedule.

"We are four days into it so we have to make those determinations of what they can and can't do," O'Brien said. "We aren't going to get rid of man-to-man. We are still going to play man in the secondary. What will dictate it is how well they learn there zone and what zones they can play. But you always have to have man in there – you have to be able to blitz."

While O'Brien admitted that the transition hasn't been perfect thus far, he added that a few bumps in the road to learning a new defensive scheme isn't unexpected. Learning is the word O'Brien has used repeatedly during the last few days to emphasize the idea that progress is there but its yet to translate into results.

"Their heads are swimming a little bit – they are still learning things," O'Brien said. "We just went to a substitution defensive package today and it was kind of like Chinese to them. You have to get through this phase and we throw a lot at them and then we keep repeating everything. We'll decide as they go along what they can do and what they can't do and that's what we'll have to focus on once we get to the season."

Rumph agreed that the biggest adjustment has been getting used to the terminology. While most players heard the same terms in the spring, newcomers are still adjusting. Rumph said the main concern right now is getting everyone from fifth-year seniors like himself to the just-arrived freshman on the same page.

"Learning is learning," Rumph said. "We get out here and they throw the different terminology at us, so these first few days at camp everyone is trying to get used to the terminology. We had it in the spring, but we have to bring it together as a unit. If one person is out of sync then the whole defense is messed up – so we are still learning."

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